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Enhanced safety for pedestrians

The ability to detect pedestrians on the road and highlight them on the display in the instrument cluster to warn the driver has been a feature of the Active Night View Assist Plus since 2009. Now Mercedes-Benz is presenting the latest development stage of the system as a world premiere in the form of a spotlight function. The new assistance system goes a significant step further: it highlights the possible source of danger in the driver’s immediate field of vision by specifically directing light on people on the road. A positive side effect of this is that the pedestrian is also alerted to the presence of the approaching vehi-cle. The new spotlight function will be included as a standard feature of the Active Night View Assist Plus in a luxury class Mercedes model from the summer of 2011.

Imagine the scenario: you are driving at night on a dark country road
and suddenly a pedestrian appears as if from nowhere – almost every
driver must have encountered such a daunting moment at some point.
Striking a passer-by is one of the worst things that could happen to a
driver. According to research by the German Federal Highway Research
Institute (BASt), five times as many pedestrians are killed on country
roads at night than during the day. Another statistic from the BASt
is as equally shocking: only 20 percent of car journeys take place at
night – however this is the time when some 40 percent of fatal
accidents occur.

With the the new spotlight function for the Active Night View Assist
Plus, Mercedes-Benz is for the first time presenting an active light
system which provides a completely new level of safety at night. If
the night vision camera detects people on or near the road, they are
automatically flashed with the spotlight function to alert the driver
to the potential danger. As a positive side effect, pedestrians are
also alerted to the approaching vehicle. Studies have confirmed that
pedestrians do actually become aware of the spotlight function. Other
road users are not dazzled as illumination does not occur if other road
users who happen to be travelling in front or approaching in the
opposite direction are located near the pedestrian.

The new spotlight function will be included as a standard feature of
Active Night View Assist Plus in a luxury class Mercedes model from the
summer of 2011. “Just like many other safety innovations from
Mercedes-Benz, the new spotlight function forming part of the Active
Night View Assist Plus is geared towards how accidents actually
occur”, according to Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of
Management responsible for Group Research and Head of Development,
Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The aim of this development was to prevent the
particularly serious consequences of collisions with pedestrians at
night. With this concept, a Mercedes-Benz fitted with the spotlight
function not only protects its occupants, but also makes a significant
contribution towards enhancing safety for other road users”, explains
Dr. Weber. The popularity of enhanced night-time driving safety among
customers is reflected in the success story enjoyed by Active Night
Assist, which was introduced in 2005: currently more than half of global
orders for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class include the system.

The new spotlight function was developed by the camera and light experts at Mercedes-Benz in Sindelfingen.

 

In detail: how the spotlight function actually works

Caution, pedestrian on the road!

The Night View Assist Plus with new spotlight function is a complex
combination of a variety of technical functions. Infrared headlamps,
night vision camera, multipurpose camera, spotlight headlamps,
instrument cluster display and headlamp switch are all coordinated by
several control units using complex software.

This is how the innovative safety feature works in detail: the
spotlight function is enabled when the driver switches on Adaptive
Highbeam Assist as normal (by turning the rotary light switch to the
“Auto” position and pushing the steering-column stalk forward into the
main beam position) and activates Active Night View Assist Plus by
pressing the adjacent button. The spotlight function is then enabled at
speeds above 45 km/h. A corresponding icon in the night vision image
notifies the driver that the spotlight function is switched on/active.
At speeds below 40 km/h, the spotlight function is automatically
disabled. The driver can also disable the function at will, by moving
the steering-column stalk from the main beam position into the centre,
neutral position (the usual procedure for dimming the lights).

The spotlight function uses infrared technology to detect pedestrians
at a range of up to 80 metres: two separate light sources in the
headlamps illuminate the road with invisible, non-dazzling infrared
light. A windscreen-mounted camera designed to pick up precisely this
type of light records what happens in front of the car. The captured
image is sent to a display in the instrument cluster. The clear,
needle-sharp image that appears here shows the scene in front of the
vehicle, allowing the driver to see pedestrians, cyclists or obstacles
on the road at an early stage. As soon as the system detects any
pedestrians in front of the car, they are highlighted in the display by
the Active Night View Assist Plus. A second camera, also used as a
so-called multipurpose camera by the Speed Limit Assist and Lane Keeping
Assist, detects whether the vehicle is being driven at night. It also
records the position of other road users travelling in front or
approaching from the opposite direction. All of this information is used
by the electronic control unit to decide whether a detected pedestrian
is to be flashed with the spotlight function as a warning. For
variable light distribution, a groove cut into the profile of the
headlamps helps to create a controllable light source, the spotlight.
Outside of built-up areas, pedestrians are flashed with the spotlight
function up to four times at night, provided they are located within
the light cone. If the Adaptive Highbeam Assist has been switched to
dipped beam, the pedestrian is flashed with the spotlight function
beyond the area of the dipped beam. If on the other hand main beam is
activated, this remains on in the left-hand headlamp, while the
pedestrian is flashed with the right-hand headlamp. The flashing
headlamp then remains dipped for five seconds in order to avoid dazzling
the pedestrian during this time.

It is not possible for other road users to be dazzled, since
illumination does not occur when other vehicles which are travelling in
front or approaching from the opposite direction are located in the same
direction as the pedestrian. In addition, the driver can also disable
the spotlight function at any time should he so wish using the steering
column stalk.

If the pedestrian should disappear from the camera image, for example
because the vehicle has already passed him by or he has moved away from
the edge of the road, the headlamp returns to full beam again before
the five-second period expires, provided that the conditions imposed
by the Adaptive Highbeam Assist have been met. This helps to ensure
that the driver once again has access to the full main beam function,
and therefore the best road illumination, as quickly as possible.

 

Review

Milestones in lighting technology

Avoiding accidents and mitigating their consequences: this is what
Mercedes-Benz’s comprehensive safety philosophy is all about. Achieving
optimum visibility as well as being seen in time play a very
significant role in this area. A lot of the improvements made to active
safety by Mercedes-Benz have come about as a result of the company
combining innovative light technology with the latest assistance
systems. And other road users often benefit from such measures too. For
example, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, which was presented in the E-Class in
2009, helps to prevent the drivers of oncoming vehicles and also
vehicles travelling in front from being dazzled.

Mercedes-Benz has always stood for innovations aimed at improving
customer benefits. Many of the innovations find their way into
volume-produced model series after starting life in research
vehicles, such as the ESF 2009, and also via innovation carriers such as
the CL and S-Class. Xenon light, for example, has in the meantime
become available for all Mercedes-Benz model series and on average
has a specification rate of over 55 percent. A similar success story has
been enjoyed with the Active Night View Assist: currently more than
half of S-Class models are ordered with this feature worldwide. And
when it comes to the unique LED High Performance headlamps on the new
CLS, the market researchers at Mercedes are predicting a
specification rate of more than 80 percent.

 

Here is a brief chronology of the most important milestones in Mercedes-Benz light technology over the past 20 years:

1991: premiere of xenon headlamps with gas discharge lamps in the Mercedes F 100 research vehicle

1995: xenon headlamps with dynamic headlamp range control in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class

1999: premiere of bi-xenon technology in the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

2003: world premiere of the active light function in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2004: world premiere of bi-xenon headlamps with the active light function and cornering lights in the Mercedes-Benz CLS

2005: premiere of the Active Night View Assist in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class

2006: world premiere of the Intelligent Light System in the E-Class

2009: world premiere of the Intelligent Light System with Adaptive Highbeam Assist in the E-Class

2009: premiere of the Active Night View Assist Plus in the Mercedes-Benz S and E-Class

2010: world premiere of the LED High Performance
headlamps with all of the light functions of the Intelligent Light
System in the Mercedes CLS

2010: new xenon burners with a 20 percent higher colour temperature, and therefore closer to daylight, in the S and E-Class

2010: world premiere of the spotlight function (in series production from 2011)

 

Glossary

The A to Z of technical light terms

Adaptive brake light: the brake lights flash to warn drivers behind more effectively if the brakes are applied in an emergency.

Adaptive Highbeam Assist: this system adjusts the
range of the headlamps in accordance with the distance to oncoming
vehicles/vehicles travelling ahead which are detected.

Active Light System: the Intelligent Light System’s bi-xenon headlamps follow the driver’s steering movements.

Motorway mode: from 90 km/h the entire width of the carriageway is illuminated, improving the driver’s range of vision by around 50 metres.

Bi-xenon headlamps: gas-discharge lamps for low and main beam improve safety at night.

Enhanced foglamps: this function of the Intelligent
Light System pivots the offside headlamp outwards to illuminate the
road verge more effectively.

Intelligent Light System: this innovative headlamp
technology provides five lighting functions which are activated
depending on the driving and weather conditions (see also Cornering
light function, Country mode, Motorway mode, Active Light System and
Enhanced foglamps).

Country mode: this function of the Intelligent Light
System replaces the previ-ous low-beam headlamps and provides broader
and brighter illumination of the opposite road verge.

LED (Light Emitting Diode): LEDs are based on
crystalline semiconductors which directly convert electric power into
light. They feature light of a pleasant colour similar to daylight
and higher energy efficiency.

Night View Assist Plus: the display in the dashboard
shows a realistic grey-scale image of the vehicle surroundings as
observed by an infrared camera. Pedes-trians are also additionally
highlighted in the display. The new spotlight function also enables
pedestrians on or next to the road to be flashed with light and
there-fore highlighted in the driver’s immediate field of vision (to be
introduced in a luxury-class Mercedes model from the summer of 2011).

LED High Performance headlamps: new light system in
the Mercedes CLS. It combines the Intelligent Light System, already
tried-and-tested in Mercedes models with bi-xenon headlamps, with LED
technology for the first time.

Spotlight: using the spotlight function, pedestrians
detected by the Night View Assist Plus can be flashed with the
spotlight function light up to four times to warn the driver.

 
 
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